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Farmers Reaping Benefits of Big Data in Agriculture

Approximately 40% of the Earth's land is used to raise food. However, approximately one-third of that food is wasted. Feeding an increasing number of inhabitants will take the coordination of many professionals and farmers across the globe. And one technology is helping them meet current and future challenges – big data.

Farmers must constantly track many agricultural data points, including soil conditions, water resources, weather patterns, growth rates, and the impact of climate change. One way they can improve their knowledge is by participating in networks that share and analyze this data.

Crowdsourcing Big Data in Agriculture
The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture aims to collect and analyze large data sets that identify valuable trends for farmers and decision-makers. Once collected, mathematical models are used to evaluate potential scenarios by incorporating present conditions, future conditions, climate change, and the application of technology in farming.

The results can assist farmers and decision-makers on where to invest time, money, and effort. The data can also be shared in public sectors to advise policy or research initiatives. With coordination and appropriate data sharing, these results could improve the research process and increase awareness of agricultural impacts.

Agricultural Big Data in Action
Understanding soil conditions is one key to successful crop yield. By better understanding nitrogen and potassium levels, farmers can better understand soil conditions and make necessary adjustments to ensure growth. Robots that determine the optimal positioning of corn seeds are being tested across the U.S. while a weed removal robot is currently in trial stages in Germany. As farmers become more open to accepting and investing in new technology, they can use big data to optimize yields and reduce guesswork. Finally, agriculture isn't limited just to plants; it also includes animals. Dubbed the "Internet of Cows," farmers are now applying sensors to farm animals to collect data on the health of each animal. This includes valuable information which can help estimate the birth date for a pregnant cow. 

Big data is empowering farmers to better manage their crops and animals. Crop insurance, an important component of financial support, now allows farmers to take pictures of their crops on a weekly basis, provide reports on planting and pesticide usage with support by geo-tagged data, and proactively report on crop damage with verifiable evidence. Farmers are now proactive managers in reducing insurance claims while increasing crop yields.


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